I am a big fan of the Serenity Prayer. I repeatedly think of it day in and day out: “God,* grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is one of several incantations that I have said in my mind so many times that it has become almost automatic.**
The wisdom of the serenity prayer is vast! The prayer has three distinct parts, and each part, at least for me, has a distinct meaning and value:
- “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” This is the heart of the prayer. After all, in reality, we cannot change (or control) most of what goes on in life. We cannot change other people. We cannot change current events. We cannot control our immediate circumstances. To me, this prayer is about letting go of resisting reality. Making peace with what is starts with accepting what we can’t change.
- “…the courage to change the things I can…” This is what we do have control over. For me, this is usually my attitude. I can change my focus. Also, I can change my actions, and if there is something that I’m not happy with in life, as long as I have released attachment to what I can’t control, there is usually something I can do about the situation. But it often starts with changing my attitude 🙂
- “… and the wisdom to know the difference.” Ah, the rub. How easy it is for us humans to get confused about what we can and cannot change! This is probably the number one greatest difficulty that comes up in relationships: people thinking others need to change for them, or people thinking that they know better what others need (or how they should change). Yet trying to change others is a fool’s errand. Not only does it usually not work, it can easily backfire and damage or even destroy relationships. To me, there is no greater wisdom than to accept others and let them be, while directing my attention to focusing on myself, which is all I can control anyway. May I ever distinguish the difference!
These days, I think I am much better at accepting others as they are, and using my focus to focus on what I can control, instead of what I can’t. Believe it or not, much of this is due to continually reminding myself of this handy little prayer and contemplating its meaning. This has helped me on many an occasion where I might otherwise get stuck or confused.
I am most appreciative of the Serenity Prayer!
*If “God” is not your thing, you can substitute whatever you like! You can say “Goddess,” “Universe,” “Source,” or “Chris Hemsworth, God of Thunder!” (Just a joke… I’m referring here to the actor who plays Thor in the Marvel movies)
**Other incantations that have become reflexive for me: “I am strong and worthy,” and “It is my dominant intent to reach for thoughts that feel good.”